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Who needs a bailout? The New York soldiers heading to Afghan War frontlines.

The frightening Taliban invasion of the Afghan capital Kabul, courtesy of Al Jazeera‘s Todd Baer. Compare the CNN and Al Jazeera stories.

Bailout? If by accident of birth, you were in Kabul yesterday, you’d be dying to bail out. You would have been running for your life while crazed Taliban stormed major government buildings and blew themselves up. A score of non-Taliban people were killed and fourscore wounded yesterday in Afghanistan’s capital in the ominous assault.

Not to worry: Hell is on the way. U.S. troops, led by New York’s 10th Mountain Division, are returning to Central Asia after being unjustifiably diverted from Uzbekistan (where they named their camp’s muddy streets after the L.I.E., Fifth Avenue, and so on) to Iraq a few years ago to be blown up by Iraqi rebels. Bad news, everybody: There’s a spring offensive coming against the Taliban, and it won’t be like the relatively bloodless capture of Baghdad. It’ll be like what happened after George W. Bush declared, “Mission accomplished!”

See the sprightly agitprop “10th Mountain Division Leads New Deployments to Afghanistan” from the Defense Department’s American Forces Press Service. Or check out the previews from ABC and CBS.

So, prepare yourselves for depressing news this spring of a non-financial variety: The expected sudden rise of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan will shove at least some of the Wall Street-inspired news off the front pages.

After all, if by the grace of Darwin or God you happen to live in the U.S., you may very well lose your home or job, but you probably won’t be blown up. Unless you’ve been brainwashed by the government’s ad campaigns and have joined the military. In which case, you, too, might find yourself in beautiful downtown Kabul trying to stamp out the Muslim fanatics.

It was only 25 years ago that Ronald Reagan hosted the Taliban in the White House, praised them as heroic “freedom fighters,” and drummed up money for them. And Texas oilmen feted the creepily fundamentalist Taliban leaders with backyard barbecues.

Now the Taliban are returning the favor by trying to barbecue Americans. They no longer need a stimulus from the White House.

You need one, so have another cup of coffee and click on these headlines…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Bloomberg: ‘Bank Failures May Reach 1,000 on Bad Loans’

N.Y. Post: ‘BE MY CUT-RATE VALENTINE’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mother cries “tears of happiness” after baby’s life-saving brain surgery’

N.Y. Post: ‘COP WILL SURRENDER IN BEATING’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘A daring river rescue by man down on luck’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Wants Funds Restored to Stimulus’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Job well done?! 4 Merrill execs got $121M in bonuses on eve of bailout’

N.Y. Times: ‘In New Procedure, Artificial Arm Listens to Brain’

N.Y. Post: ‘B’KLYN COP SHOOTS TEEN GUNMAN’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Gov waffles on tax hikes for wealthy’

Reuters: ‘U.S. mortgage applications slump to 8-year low’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Attack in Kabul Leaves 26 Dead’

N.Y. Post: ‘SULLY AND PAL RELIVE BIRD BLITZ’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Another day, another $294G’

N.Y. Times: ‘Comeback for 10-Year-Old Spaniel’

N.Y. Post: ‘ALOMAR IN “AIDS” SHOCK: EX-LOVE SUES MET GREAT’

N.Y. Times: ‘New School Faculty and President Remain at Odds’

International Herald Tribune: ‘U.S. is looking to the “vultures” to rescue banks’

N.Y. Post: ‘BRAVE GAL IDS “HIT MAN”‘

Wall Street Journal: ‘Economists React: Treasury Announcement Fails to Satisfy’

N.Y. Post: ‘I WAS ANGEL OF FAKE DEATH’

N.Y. Times: ‘Gates Orders Review of Policy on Soldiers’ Coffins’

N.Y. Post: ‘LOTTERY MAY BET ITS MARBLES ON THE MARKET’

N.Y. Post: ‘SHOVEL MURDER’

N.Y. Times: ‘On Trail of War Criminals, NBC News Is Criticized’

N.Y. Post: ‘BIG PUSSY $ETTLES WITH EX’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Foreclosure “Tsunami” Hits Mortgage Servicers’

N.Y. Post: ‘”GRAFT” RABBI OFF HOOK IN DOC ASSAULT’

Forbes: ‘Geithner’s Cash For Trash’

Forbes: ‘Why A $99 iPhone Is Bad For Apple’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘”Booty call” sparked fight’

Bloomberg: ‘Buffett, Who Invests “Forever,” Finds Shorter Time Horizons Unprofitable’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mark Green wants his old public advocate gig’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Paterson puttin’ Lotto faith in stock market’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Reverse ban on pics of soldiers’ coffins, say families of fallen soldiers’

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Super Sunday! Bread and circuses and suicide bombings!

The Taliban conduct a night ambush against U.S. troops on January 24. A commenter on this YouTube video wrote: “holy cow, tracer rounds are so cool!” Yeah, really cool.

What a Sunday in sports and terror: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer fought to the death in a Grand Slam final, and so did the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Best Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. Best display of tennis skills I’ve ever seen.

Now that those matches are over, let the real games begin.

Sorry, Cardinal fans, but the worst news Sunday was the latest fight to the death in Afghanistan — yet another suicide bombing by the Taliban:

A man wrapped in explosives walked into a compound filled with Afghan police officers Monday morning and detonated his payload, killing 21 officers and himself, the Interior Ministry said.

The attacker struck in Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, a mountainous area where the government’s authority is being contested by the Taliban. Oruzgan is the birthplace of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the founder of the Taliban movement.

This is ominous news, and not because of the location. Here’s some context missing from the New York Times story quoted above. The BBC (yes, it uses a different spelling for the Taliban) explains:

The Taleban have changed tactics since facing foreign troops in open battles two years ago, says the BBC’s Ian Pannell in Kabul.

The tactics of insurgents in Iraq are being duplicated, with more suicide bombings, roadside bombs and hit-and-run ambushes, our correspondent says.

Just another reason to rue the Bush regime’s unjustified invasion of Iraq. Taliban fanatics were able to hone their killing skills by adopting a strategy perfected by other fanatics in Iraq. Once again, we’re reminded of George W. Bush‘s most enduring legacy, his accidentally truth-telling words from 2004:

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

One could argue that the scary increase in suicide bombings in Afghanistan probably wouldn’t be happening if not for the Bush-Cheney regime’s vital contribution of spreading the “war on terror” to Iraq and thus giving fanatics the chance to think of new ways to commit suicide/homicide.

Meanwhile, in other business…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘Afghan Suicide Bomber Kills 18’

N.Y. Times: ‘Bailouts for Bunglers’ (Paul Krugman)

Question: what happens if you lose vast amounts of other people’s money? Answer: you get a big gift from the federal government — but the president says some very harsh things about you before forking over the cash.

Am I being unfair? I hope so. But right now that’s what seems to be happening.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the Obama administration’s plan to support jobs and output with a large, temporary rise in federal spending, which is very much the right thing to do. I’m talking, instead, about the administration’s plans for a banking system rescue — plans that are shaping up as a classic exercise in “lemon socialism”: taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, but stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right.

When I read recent remarks on financial policy by top Obama administration officials, I feel as if I’ve entered a time warp — as if it’s still 2005, Alan Greenspan is still the Maestro, and bankers are still heroes of capitalism.

N.Y. Post: ‘DEMS PUSH RENT CONTROL’

N.Y. Times: ‘A Month Free? Rents Are Falling Fast’

N.Y. Post: ‘DAVE TURNS A BLIND EYE TO SNL JAB’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Firms Getting U.S. Aid
Face Strict Pay Curbs’

The White House is expected to impose tougher restrictions on executive compensation at firms that get substantial government aid, as part of an effort to improve public perception of the $700 billion financial bailout.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘No joke — I’ll fire 23,000, Mike warns’

Digital Journalist: ‘”Dr. Strangelove and President Bush’

N.Y. Times: ‘Gaza Notebook: The Bullets in My In-Box’ (Ethan Bronner)

NewsBusters: ‘Robert Gibbs, Reporters Laugh Off Fairness Doctrine Question’ [SEE TRANSCRIPT or VIDEO]

N.Y. Post: ‘OBAMA’S POLITICAL “PARTY”‘

President Obama watched last night’s Super Bowl with a few political pals – and a couple of foes.

Obama, a Steeler fan, had 11 Democrats and four Republicans over — including Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who once warned electing Obama would spark “dancing in the streets among the terrorists of the world.”

N.Y. Times: ‘Herbert Hoover Lives’ (Frank Rich)

Here’s a bottom line to keep you up at night: The economy is falling faster than Washington can get moving. President Obama says his stimulus plan will save or create four million jobs in two years. In the last four months of 2008 alone, employment fell by 1.9 million. Do the math….

What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell’s soup, Hershey’s chocolate and Spam — the four food groups of the apocalypse.

N.Y. Times: ‘Welfare Aid Not Growing as Economy Drops Off’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Recession Gives Cobblers New Traction’

The shoe-repair industry has been given a new lease on life as Americans opt to repair shoes rather than replace them.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Brilliant student, pal cut down in stolen car crash’

N.Y. Times: ‘Risks Are Vast in Revaluation of Assets’

As the Obama administration prepares its strategy to rescue the nation’s banks by buying or guaranteeing troubled assets on their books, it confronts one central problem: How should they be valued?

Not just billions, but hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are at stake.

N.Y. Times: ‘Israeli, Palestinian Attacks Batter Gaza Ceasefire’

N.Y. Post: ‘PENSION TENSION’

Just when it started to look as if The New York Times Co. had found a way to dig itself out from under its massive debt load, the beleaguered newspaper company may be on the verge of getting knocked down again.

The cash-strapped publisher last week reported that its pension plan was facing a $625 million shortfall at the end of 2008, compared with a deficit of $48 million a year earlier….

More than $1 billion in debt is looming over the ad-starved company, which was forced to get a $250 million loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim at a steep 14 percent interest rate, to put its stake in the Boston Red Sox up for sale and to negotiate the sale of part of its brand-new Eighth Avenue headquarters.

Now, the company is getting socked again by the financial crisis and subsequent market turmoil as it wreaks havoc on its pension plan. To be sure, the Times doesn’t owe billions in retirement benefits like the Big Three automakers, but it’s one of hundreds of US companies suffering from a severe pension squeeze.

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Promises Review Board for Bailout Program’

N.Y. Post: ‘IN SURVIVAL MODE’

Last week was a painful one for magazines, as Condé Nast decided to shutter Domino and Readers Digest‘s parent laid off a chunk of its staff. While advertising pages are down across the board, there are a number of mags that are fighting for their survival.

N.Y. Times: ‘Oil Below $41 as US Crude Workers May Strike’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Super Bowl XLIII is no quick fix for the economy’ (Mike Lupica)

N.Y. Times: ‘Spinach and Peanuts, With a Dash of Radiation’

N.Y. Post: ‘DRUG DEAL BAD RX FOR JERSEY’

N.Y. Times: ‘Justice Dept. Under Obama Is Preparing for Doctrinal Shift in Policies of Bush Years’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘More than 100 killed in Kenya oil tanker explosion’

N.Y. Times: ‘Rising Acidity Is Threatening Food Web of Oceans, Science Panel Says’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Now Hiring: Lehman’

Lehman has become a hot source of work for finance professionals needed for the process of dissolving the firm.

N.Y. Post: ‘BOFA DISSIDENTS SET SIGHTS ON CEO LEWIS’

A group of angry Bank of America shareholders plans to demand that Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis get the boot at the bank’s upcoming annual meeting.

N.Y. Times: ‘Phelps Apologizes for Marijuana Pipe Photo’

The Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps quickly acknowledged his poor judgment after a photograph showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe was published Sunday in a British newspaper. Although his admission is unlikely to effect his swimming eligibility, it could affect the millions of dollars he has secured in endorsement deals….

Since his record-breaking performance in Beijing, Phelps has added Kellogg’s, Mazda and Subway, among others, to an endorsement portfolio that already included Visa and AT&T. In a 60 Minutes interview that aired in December, Phelps’s agent…said that Phelps could earn more than $100 million over his lifetime.

IPS: ‘MEDIA-US: Gaza Coverage Echoed Govt Support of Israel’

<New Times (Phoenix): ‘Senator Shocks Press: “%$#@ Like A Beast!”‘

New Times (Phoenix): ‘Leapin’ Lizards’

Vos Iz Neias?: ‘Assemblyman Hikind: More Victims Coming Forward In Former Russian Principal Case’

On his weekly radio show this just-past Motzoei Shabbos, Assemblyman Dov Hikind revealed that according to his information, [confirmed by VIN News] another victim has come forward with allegations that he was abused by the disgraced former principal of Elite High School of Brooklyn.

On the show, Mr. Hikind also discussed the accused principal’s admission of guilt.

Most significantly, Hikind announced a major yom tefilah to be held on March 1, 2009 in front of the Borough Park “Y” on 48th Street to demonstrate a communal request for forgiveness from Hashem for not doing enough to protect our children from, and inform our community of, heinous crimes that have been occurring over the past decades in which we turned a blind eye to abuse victims.

Mr. Hikind said that he would continue his crusade, and said “those who are upset with what I do, I ask them: ‘Take over what I do.’ I even offered one of the biggest Chasidic institutions many months ago, when they were upset at my work, to take over–and I never heard back from them.”


‘The Madoff Scandal and the Future of American Jewry’

From the conservative, Jewish-establishment magazine Commentary:

…Perhaps this will set off a war of scarcity between Jewish groups fighting over the money of those who are still giving, but the initial indications are that cooperation may prevail over chaos.

Representatives of thirty-five of the largest Jewish foundations in the country met in New York on December 23, 2008, to coordinate their responses to the crisis and agreed to offer millions of dollars in loans to not-for-profits victimized by Madoff–a heartening display of a community banding together in a time of crisis.

But the real problem facing specifically Jewish charitable organizations is not a scarcity of dollars to be spread among rival Jewish causes, but rather competition from secular groups that have also been injured by the economic crisis.

An assimilated Jewish donor who feels the charitable impulse but has fewer dollars to contribute might feel a greater sense of affinity and cause with an environmentalist group or an arts organization, and focus his reduced power on them instead. Just as the openness of American society has made it less likely for Jews to marry other Jews, so, too, it is less likely that Jews will give primarily to Jewish causes….

The long-term threat for Jewish philanthropy, then, isn’t Bernard Madoff but rather the overall threat facing the larger Jewish community in the United States–what came to be known, nearly two decades ago, as the “continuity crisis.”

When the 1990 National Jewish Population Study reported alarming rates of intermarriage, numbers that offered the terrifying prospect of the eventual withering away of the Jewish population in the United States, a debate began in the organized Jewish world about how to address the approaching demographic disaster.

Art Observed: ‘Brandeis University considers closing Rose Museum due to losses from Madoff investments’

CBS: ‘Double Trouble for Madoffs?: Brother Of Bernard Made Florida Real Estate Moves That Raise Questions About How Much Family Knew’
See [VIDEO]

Peter Madoff‘s role in the scam, if any, remains unclear. But timing of the homestead exemption requests raises questions as to who knew what and when….

CBS News has learned that [Bernard] Madoff and his brother, along with their wives, took steps two years ago — around the time that federal regulators started probing Madoff’s business activities — that could help prevent their Florida homes from being taken away from them, something possible under Florida state law.

“Florida has very unique laws and has been described by some as a debtor’s haven,” said John Pankauski, a Florida estate attorney. “People who may want to protect their property will seek the protection of Florida laws.”

Florida’s “homestead” laws, which are unlike what any other state has, in part allow homeowners facing legal judgments (or other financial issues) to protect their primary residence fully — keeping it out of the hands of potential creditors. One of the key steps in qualifying for the home-protection is seeking “homestead exemption,” which provides homeowners with a tax break.

On May 10, 2001, Peter Madoff bought the home at 200 Algoma Road in Palm Beach, Fla., along with his wife Marion. Both were listed as owners at the time.

Five years later, on Nov. 8, 2006, Peter transferred the title to Marion making her the sole legal owner of the home….

ABC: ‘The Imp in a Bottle: Ponzi/Madoff in a Broader Perspective: Ponzificating on Madoff, Pyramid Schemes and the Financial Crisis’

N.Y. Daily News: New York Post writer busted in bid to interview Bernard Madoff’

A bumbling New York Post reporter was busted Saturday after he tried to sweet-talk his way into Bernie Madoff’s upper East Side penthouse, police said.

Josh Saul, 25, claimed to be a real-estate broker when he entered the Ponzi scheme swindler’s building at 133 E. 64th St. around 1 p.m., police said. “He misrepresented himself,” a police source said.

Saul was escorted upstairs by a doorman and was near the front door of the $50 billion scam artist’s $7 million duplex when he was unmasked, cops said.

The hapless hack’s weekend at Bernie’s did not end with the exclusive interview he was angling for. Instead, he was arrested, charged with trespassing and issued a summons.

Saul, 25, of Greenwich Village, has been working at the Post for about a year. He is also the dubious star of a Web site that includes photos of him dancing in his underwear, chugging beer from a keg, wearing a woman’s wig and balancing objects on his head.

Reached Saturday night, he referred all questions to his newspaper.

Post spokesman Howard Rubinstein declined to comment.

The fact-challenged tabloid quoted an anonymous source on Friday as saying that brokers have been invited by the trustee of Madoff’s firm to assess the disgraced investor’s apartment.

Z Magazine: ‘Wall Street swindler inadvertently strikes powerful blows for social justice?’

N.Y. Times: ‘Art at Brandeis’

Hard times force hard choices on everyone. But that does not require bad decisions too. At Brandeis University, President Jehuda Reinharz has made hard times worse by deciding to close the university’s Rose Art Museum and sell off more than 6,000 works in its collection….

The Madoff scandal and its effects on some of Brandeis’s major donors have made new fund-raising possibilities especially bleak.

Selling the university’s art collection would help plug its financial gap, but it would create a gaping hole in Brandeis’s mission and its reputation. It would default on one of the great collections of contemporary art in New England, one built early on with extraordinary artistic acumen. The core works were acquired by the museum’s founding director from such young artists (at young artist prices) as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

 

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Barack Obama’s roadblocked info highway

Traffic is still backed up on Civics 101. What was touted in the web’s early days as the “information highway” has become too cluttered with political billboards.

This is not a vast right-wing conspiracy. The blizzard of b.s. is from Barack Obama‘s embryonic regime.

It’s not really a shock. Liberals work just as hard — usually harder — at social-engineering projects, as part of their well-meaning if often misguided attempts to improve people’s lives.

There’s reason to assume that, in many respects, the new administration will be more open than the Bush-Cheney regime, which, after all, did hatch all sorts of secretive plots and strategies of lies and agitprop, particularly about the Iraq invasion.

But in one basic area, the road from D.C. to the rest of the country, there are so many Obama ads that you can’t see the countryside whizzing past, and the view was actually less cluttered by presidential propaganda during the Bush Daze.

I noted this last week, and I’ll keep harping on it until the new administration takes down some of its self-promoting signage about “transparent government” and actually delivers transparency.

OK, it’s still early days for the Obama regime. But when the Bush regime took over for the Clintonians, there were changes to the whitehouse.gov site, but its core job of providing basic information remained intact.

Yes, you had to cut through the propaganda, but the transcripts, official White House photos of various events, videos of speeches to even nut groups were all there. And, yes, George W. Bush‘s malaprops were rarely expunged.

Eight years ago, of course, there was no YouTube. Now, government operatives are really into trying to bend the technology and are much more sophisticated about trying to give you what they want you to think you need. That must be why the Obama White House is — so far — less forthcoming with info about the prez’s activities than the Bush White House was.

And it’s apparently why the new administration is getting all creepy-crawly friendly on us by titling Obama’s regular weekly speech “Your Weekly Address.”

No, pal, it’s yours. Do you have to put a marketing spin on everything?

The country gave it up for you, Obama. Now give it up to us.

Meanwhile, here’s some other clutter to click on…

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘”FARE SHARE” TAXIS: CITY EYES SPLIT RIDES’

Bloomberg: ‘”Fear” Signals U.S. Jobless Rolls to Swell in Recession’

What’s shaping up to be the longest and deepest U.S. recession in at least a quarter century may swell the number of Americans collecting jobless benefits by half this year.

Forbes: ‘The Incendiary IDF: The Israel Defense Forces use phosphorous shells — and forfeit credibility’ (Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch)

Forbes: ‘Bank Bonuses Should Make You Mad’

Taxpayer money is what’s lining the pockets of Wall Street executives. How can this happen and what can we do?

Wall Street Journal: ‘Lending Drops at Big U.S. Banks’

Lending at many of the nation’s largest banks fell in recent months, even after they received $148 billion in taxpayer capital that was intended to help the economy by making loans more readily available.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Teen sex rap for principal of Bensonhurst private school’

…the latest blow to Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. Since October, at least four Orthodox Jewish men in the borough have been charged with sexually abusing children.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Moves to Change Emissions Rules’

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama’s Order Is Likely to Tighten Auto Standards’

N.Y. Times: ‘From Here to Retirement’

The wipeout in 401(k)’s has made it clear that there needs to be a better way to ensure that a lifetime of savings can’t be undone by forces beyond one’s control.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Cop shoots man with 17 bags of cocaine — but no gun’

Bloomberg: ‘Geithner’s Treasury Bonds Abetted by Paulson Failure to Restore Confidence’

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s inability to restore confidence in the financial system is creating unprecedented demand for U.S. debt as his successor prepares to sell the most bonds in history.

N.Y. Times: ‘Counting the Walking Wounded’

The military estimates of the mental damage from war are too low because the method
used to determine the count is flawed.

N.Y. Post: ‘INTRIGUE AS FULD SELLS $13M HOUSE TO WIFE FOR $100’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Radomski covers all ‘Bases’ in new book’

Bloomberg: ‘Baboon’s Blood Offers Davos Chiefs Macbeth Magic to Cool Bewitched Market’

That old black magic has even the World Economic Forum in its spell.

N.Y. Times: ‘From Hospital, Afghans Rebut U.S. Account’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Brazilian amputee beauty queen dies’

N.Y. Times: ‘Melding Obama’s Web to a YouTube Presidency’

N.Y. Times: ‘Republicans Are Resistant to Obama’s Stimulus Plan’

N.Y. Post: ‘REVOLTIN’ JOE’S WHINE TURNS BITTER’

N.Y. Times: ‘Tenants Encouraged to Socialize, but Not Criticize’

Forbes: ‘Land Of The Free Speakers: Intellectual exiles come from democracies, too.’

…Consider Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. Israeli-born and resident in New York, Ehrenfeld has made a career of following money trails to their murkiest sources and been threatened and sued multiple times for her efforts.

Most recently she became a victim of so-called libel tourism. In Funding Evil, she wrote that a wealthy Saudi Arabian, Khalid bin Mahfouz, had financed terrorist activities. Under U.S. law her well-documented accusation doesn’t qualify as libel, so bin Mahfouz sued her in Great Britain.

The book had never been published in Britain or sold in book stores there, but a few copies had been obtained via online sellers. A British judge imposed a fine on Ehrenfeld and said her book should be destroyed.

N.Y. Times: ‘Infomercials Find Their Way to Television’s Prime Time’

A sign of the ailing economy, infomercials are now filling television slots that traditional advertisers like banks and automakers once owned.

Forbes: ‘This Bear Buys Stocks’

Jeremy Grantham, the bear who called the tech bubble and stayed out of stocks while the credit bubble inflated, finally sees opportunities in U.S. stocks.

‘When your husband is in jail, or heading to jail…’

Tips from Divorce Saloon:

Ruth Madoff and Michelle Schrenker are two lovely women whose husbands have done not so lovely things. As a result, both men are facing federal prison. Bernie Madoff, husband of Ruth Madoff, is facing prison for pulling off the biggest Ponzi heist in Wall Street history. Marcus Schrenker is facing prison for leaving his private plane unmanned and calling in a fake distress signal after defrauding his clients of millions.

Most women’s husbands who are facing jail or already in jail, probably haven’t done anything quite as exciting as these two particular husbands. But the concerns are the same. What now? Where does she go from there?

Well, all I can say is that in New York, if your husband is going to be incarcerated for more than 3 consecutive years, you can get a divorce on that basis and he does not have to agree to the divorce.

Palm Beach Post: ‘Trust fund teens take credit for decorating Madoff mansion, in toilet paper’

…Some teenage boys called The Palm Beach Post newsroom Sunday evening to take credit for the prank – one they said was sanctioned by their parents.

They said they were acting in retaliation after they lost their trust funds to the accused swindler.

bloggingstocks.com: ‘Is Madoff a psychopath?’

Israel Opportunity Investor: ‘Whatever Happened to Madoff’s List of Assets?’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Sons’ Roles in Spotlight: Madoff Siblings’ Contacts With Investment Arm Scrutinized’

 

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Happy holidays: Madoffs shop, Gov. Paterson gallivants

Only three shopping days ’til Depression. But no need to hurry as in years past because you may have already been laid off, so have that second cup of coffee before you head off to longingly press your noses against those store windows.

If you still have a job, it probably won’t matter if you take off from work (because you’re probably not going to have your job much longer anyway) to grab that new bauble for your spouse (because diamonds are forever).

Let’s face it: You’re fucked. (No really, Xmas season is the peak time of mating.)

Anyway, this could be your last chance to get that plasma TV. Next year you could be at the blood bank cashing in your plasma just to put food on the table.

This morning’s best headline is the New York Post‘s “DEATH-LEAP SUV GAL WAS BOOZY: BAR BOSS.” And the most heart-warming Xmas story also comes from the Post: yesterday’s joyous shopping spree by one of Bernie Madoff‘s sons. The Post was on the scene:

Bernard Madoff’s investors have lost everything, but his son and daughter-in-law seemed without a care in the world yesterday as they dashed around SoHo on a holiday shopping spree.

Andrew Madoff, 42, who worked with brother Mark at their dad’s now-failed financial firm, still drives around in a BMW SUV to do his holiday shopping, loading up with purchases from J.Crew, Longchamp, Kidrobot and other tony stores in SoHo.

Andrew and wife Deborah, 41, who live on the Upper East Side, also shopped at American Eagle and a high-end lamp store, and checked out the windows at Vera Wang.

No word on whether the couple also went shopping for a shiny, new Ponzi to give to their dad. Take us for a ride, Bernie!

Already going for a spin at our expense is Governor David Paterson, who went to Iraq to “spread holiday cheer” to the troops, as the Daily News reports.

WTF is he doing in Iraq!? He has no say on decisions concerning the war. Some government is paying for that trip. The Daily News sez:

Paterson, joined by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Steve Israel (D-L.I.), arrived in Iraq with Yankees and Mets baseball caps for the soldiers.

He said he came to thank them for their service but wound up being “overwhelmed” by their appreciation in return.

It’s bad enough that the two congressmen are over there for no practical purpose. But while tens of thousands of New Yorkers and other Americans are standing on line for the first time to collect food stamps and other dwindling social services, Paterson’s collecting good wishes from the troops? We know that pols live for applause, but WTF!?

Stranded, we point and click to these items …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘MADOFF’S SON IN SHOPPING GALL: POSH-GIFT SPREE AMID $UFFERING’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Obama probe clears top aide Rahm Emanuel of too much Blago blabbing’

McClatchy: ‘Stimulus plan could be mother of all “Christmas tree” bills’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Stars of David: A-listers do Chanukah’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Investors Lose Faith, Pull Record Amounts’

Rank-and-file investors, who likely account for half or more of all U.S. stock holdings, are losing faith in stocks just as in past, long market downturns. Investors withdrew an estimated $72 billion from stock funds overall in October.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Stampede for “Bush shoe” creates 100 new jobs’

Ramazan Baydan, owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company, has been swamped with orders from across the world, after insisting that his company produced the black leather shoes which the Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.

Baydan has recruited an extra 100 staff to meet orders for 300,000 pairs of Model 271 – more than four times the shoe’s normal annual sale – following an outpouring of support for Zaidi’s act, which was intended as a protest, but led to his arrest by Iraqi security forces.

Times (U.K.): ‘Gordon Brown puts millions on table to save car maker Jaguar Land Rover’

BBC: ‘Windows XP allowed to live again’

N.Y. Post: ‘”ID-THEFT CELL SCAM” HITS COPS IN B’KLYN’

Maybe it wasn’t the “Finest” idea. Two identity thieves ripped off cops at a Brooklyn station house after they got hold of a 15-year-old personnel roster and used the information …

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Presidential Pickup Game’

With the naming of ‘the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history,’ hoops madness is hitting Washington. But don’t count out the bowling lobby.

Wall Street Journal: ‘U.S. Developers Seek
Their Own Bailout’

Big property developers are asking to be included in a new $200 billion loan program as a surge in commercial mortgages comes due.

The Age (Australia): ‘Japanese protest against Google Street View’

A group of Japanese journalists, professors and lawyers demanded Friday that the US Internet search giant Google scrap its “Street View” service in Japan, saying it violates people’s privacy. … The service was expanded to 12 major cities in Japan in August and six cities in France in October. …

The Google Japanese unit earlier said it was blurring the faces of people seen in Street View scenes by special technology and that it would delete the pictures of people and buildings upon request.

Japan has stricter protections on privacy in public than in the United States, with Japanese able to stop their pictures from being used against their will.

Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service: ‘Election 2008: Arab World Views’

“When you talk to Arabs they talk about the American media, they say American media is synonymous with Fox.

“Well, no, American media is not synonymous with Fox. And great things are published by the American media. Great things are published by the American media. The American media covered the Shabra and Shatila massacres in a more dignified professional way than all the Arab media put together. Make no mistake.”

Times (U.K.): ‘FBI diverts anti-terror agents to Bernard Madoff $50 billion swindle’

Washington Times: ‘Bush, Cheney comforted troops privately: Met with thousands of war injured, kin out of spotlight’

Times (U.K.): ‘Three near-invisible drawings discovered on back of Da Vinci masterpiece’ [VIDEO]

Wall Street Journal: ‘Mortgage Applications Surge on Falling Rates’

Times (U.K.): ‘Bad for investors, good for lawyers: Grandchildren of Madoff investors will still be suing grandchildren of hedge fund managers in fifty years’

Washington Post: ‘Cheney Defends His Tenure, Administration’s Actions’ [TRANSCRIPT]

Vice President Cheney offered an unabashed defense of the Bush administration’s claims of broad executive powers today, mocking criticism from Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and saying the president “doesn’t have to check with anybody” before launching a nuclear attack.

AP: ‘AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs’

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals. …

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Sunday Mail (U.K.): ‘Fury as bust bank flies 100 branch managers to New York on junket’

CRISIS-HIT bank HBOS came under attack yesterday after rewarding 100 branch managers with an all-expenses paid trip to New York.

The four-day holiday – which includes tickets for their partners and spending money – comes weeks after taxpayers bailed out the bank with £11.5 billion.

The managers are being rewarded for hitting performance targets – in a year that ended with the bank facing collapse.

 

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‘Shoe intifada’ vowed; we quake in our boots

Now we have another chance to peer into the soul of terrorists, rebels, and other insurgents.

Enraged at the alleged beating of the journalist who hurled at George W. Bush, a Muslim cleric in Iran has called for a “shoe intifada.”

Still unconfirmed: The cleric promised martyr wannabes 72 pairs of new shoes.

No time to tell you more. A snowstorm’s coming, and I need to leave for the city so I can stop at al-Payless before going to work.

So click on these …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Post: ‘REALLY HIGH MAINTENANCE’

The estranged wife of United Technologies Chairman George David says she has weekly expenses of $53,000 — more than what half the households in America earn annually and higher than the cost of attending an Ivy League school for a year.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Bush shoe protester has been beaten, Iraqi judge says’

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush was beaten afterwards and had bruises on his face, the investigating judge in the case said today, as a senior cleric in Iran urged others to wage a “shoe intifada” against the US.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Surgeon finds foot in baby’s brain’

N.Y. Post: ‘Bubba of Arabia’

BBC: ‘One in 10 Jobs Tied to Autos? Not so Fast’
Bailout Backers Claim 13 Million Jobs Rely on Auto Industry, but Economists Say It’s 2 Million

Xinhua (China): ‘Web site ordered to pay damages to China’s first “virtual lynching” victim’

Center for Responsive Politics: ‘Madoff and Company Spent Nearly $1 Million on Washington Influence’

The man behind a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that has roiled Wall Street and shaken up the nonprofit world was also a long-time contributor to Democrats,

Washington Post: ‘The Confessor in Chief’ (Dana Milbank)

Slowly, painfully, self-awareness has come to George W. Bush.

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘DreamWorks “struggling”: Everything Steven Spielberg touches usually turns to gold.’

N.Y. Post: ‘CITY TRIPLE-CROWNED BY ANOTHER TAX HIKE: PROPERTY BOOST FOLLOWS WHACKS BY GOV, MTA’

New Yorkers got slammed yesterday by the third leg of a triple whammy — a 7 percent property-tax hike, approved by the City Council, that takes effect on New Year’s Day.

Times (U.K.): ‘Barack Obama lays into SEC for its lack of “adult supervision”‘

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘Increase in robots “could lead to lack of human contact”‘

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Records show Caroline Kennedy failed to cast her vote many times since 1988’

Telegraph (U.K.): ‘Sandwiches cause woman to faint’

L.A. Times: ‘Health providers’ “conscience” rule to take effect’

The last-minute Bush administration declaration lets doctors, clinics, receptionists and others refuse to give care they find morally objectionable.

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Gay leaders angered by Obama’s prayer pick’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Two ex-Lehman brokers among 4 hit in insider ring’

The feds busted a $4.8 million insider trading scheme involving two ex-Lehman Brothers brokers who funneled confidential tips through a Playboy Playmate, officials said Thursday.

Times (U.K.): ‘It’s dramatic! It’s sensational! It’s the Fed rescue’

Quantitative easing may not sound exciting, but it is as momentous as the Gettysburg Address or the D-Day landings.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Fairfield Extended Madoff’s Reach: Investment Fund’s Marketing Effort Helped to Raise Billions for Money Manager’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama Keen to Regulate Finance’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Clinton Reveals Donors’

Former President Bill Clinton‘s charitable foundation has taken in more than $140 million in the past decade from foreign sources, including the Saudi royal family and leaders of a Middle Eastern government now negotiating a controversial deal with the U.S. government to procure nuclear-energy technologies.

Those were among the details included in the list of 205,000 donors to the Clinton Foundation, released for the first time Thursday, as part of an unusual deal negotiated with Barack Obama when the president-elect decided to nominate Mr. Clinton’s wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for secretary of state.

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Fellow Arabs honor journalist’s feat

Shoe-throwing journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi must feel as if he’d died and gone to suicide-bomber heaven. At least one of his fellow Arabs is offering him a woman who may or may not be a virgin.

Sure, it’s only woman, not the 72 promised to martyrs, but he’s alive and she’s alive and, well, you know.

And she’s thrilled about it, as Reuters reports from Cairo:

An Egyptian man said on Wednesday he was offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad on Sunday,

The daughter, Amal Saad Gumaa, said she agreed with the idea. “This is something that would honor me. I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I were attached to this hero,” she told Reuters by telephone.

Start unlacing, baby. But until marriage, no tongues.

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘Mukasey Recuses Himself From Madoff Investigation’

N.Y. Post: ‘MTA OKS HIKE IN DOUBLE WHAMMY’

Agence France Presse: ‘Chrysler halts manufacturing as clock ticks on gov’t bailout’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Scientists debunk the myth that you lose most heat through your head’

Register (U.K.): ‘New York “iPod tax” incites media bleating: Four-cent proposal twists knickers’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Just like humans! Yes, a squirrel can waterski, just like us! And we have video of the versatile squirrel in action.’

Reuters: ‘Father offers daughter to shoe-thrower’

N.Y. Times: ‘Obama Selects Evangelist for Invocation’

The inauguration role positions the Rev. Rick Warren to succeed Billy Graham as America’s pre-eminent minister.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Regulator Schapiro to Run SEC for Obama’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Lillo’s smirks spur fury as jury deliberates’

Register (U.K.): ‘Censored scenes from the Congress WMD report: Last minute bioterror rewrites?’

N.Y. Post: ‘NYERS BET ON KENNEDY BUT WANT ANDY’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Antisemites feast on Madoff misery’

It has been a fertile financial week for bigots. The astonishing scale of corruption allegedly unmasked at the offices of Wall Street fund manager Bernie Madoff has caused disproportionate pain in the Jewish community, prompting unedifying sneers on the blogosphere. …

Register (U.K.): ‘Wikipedia self-flagellates over vanishing “farmsex”: The missing Zoophilia edits’

N.Y. Post: ‘SICK TRAN-SIT COP SLAY WIFE: HE WAS A CROSS-DRESSER’

A Queens cop shot to death by his wife earlier this year was a member of the “Hottie Police” — as a cross-dresser, her lawyer said yesterday.

Reuters: ‘HIV infects women through healthy tissue: U.S. study’

Instead of infiltrating breaks in the skin, HIV appears to attack normal, healthy genital tissue, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study that offers new insight into how the AIDS virus spreads.

They said researchers had assumed the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, sought out beaks in the skin, such as a herpes sore, in order to gain access to immune system cells deeper in the tissue.

Some had even thought the normal lining of the vaginal tract offered a barrier to invasion by the virus during sexual intercourse.

Register (U.K.): ‘Yahoo! to! kill! most! search! engine! data! records! after! three! months!’

Register (U.K.): ‘Don’t delay: Delete your DNA today’

McClatchy: ‘Kabul residents have more fear of gangs than of Taliban’

Washington Post: ‘End of the Hedge Fund?’ (Sebastian Mallaby)

… Because it is possible to commit undetected fraud, the industry will attract fraudsters; eventually, investors will realize that they can’t tell the good guys from the bad and yank their money out. If this is going to happen, the Madoff scandal could be the catalyst, especially because it has hit at a time when hedge funds are in trouble for other reasons.

Hedge fund strategies depend on borrowing, or “leverage,” which is hard to come by now. They often depend on “shorting” stocks — that is, betting that they’ll fall in value — but regulators have restricted that practice. Even before the Madoff scandal, there were estimates that hedge fund assets might shrink from just under $2 trillion a few months ago to perhaps $1.4 trillion.

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Iraqi officials arrested over coup plot against prime minister’

McClatchy: ‘Salazar pick indicates big change at Interior Department’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘UN tribunal jails Rwanda genocide mastermind for life’

Register (U.K.): ‘Economists say European ancestors are what make you rich: No shit, Sherlock’

 

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Bush makes Iraqis want to hurl

As various felonious and/or dumb-ass pols and athletes would say, let’s try to get that sandalous incident in Baghdad behind us:

George W. Bush got the boot Sunday in Iraq.

(Chorus) Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

If the shoe hits, wear it.

(Chorus)

No matter what size the shoes were, they’re too big for Bush to fill.

(Chorus)

Just the presence of Bush makes you want to hurl.

(Chorus)

OK, that’s enough for now. See my item yesterday for more (and for photos and a video link).

I’m even more embarrassed that, along with most others, I ignored the fact that of course Barack Obama‘s shark, Rahm Emanuel, had dealt with Illinois Governor Rod “Obama is a Motherfucker” Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy.

Obama was certainly careful not to ignore it, when he said last Thursday, “I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I am confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.”

Deals, no, Dealings, yes. Nothing nefarious about having to deal with the guy who has the power to name someone to Obama’s Senate seat. It would be shocking if Emanuel hadn’t talked with Blago about it.

Speaking of throwing shoes, that’s too good for Bernie Madoff. He needs to be beaten like a red-headed stepchild.

But the real whippings should be reserved for those banks, institutional investors, and already rich machers from Palm Beach to Beverly Hills to London to Geneva to New York who invested with the guy.

Here’s the SEC complaint against Madoff.

But where was the SEC a decade ago? As the Wall Street Journal reported last week:

An executive in the securities industry, Harry Markopolos, contacted the SEC’s Boston office in May 1999, urging regulators to investigate Mr. Madoff. Mr. Markopolos continued to pursue his accusations over the past nine years, he said in an interview on Thursday, and according to documents he sent to the SEC that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“Bernie Madoff’s returns aren’t real and if they are real, then they would almost certainly have been generated by front-running customer order flow from the broker-dealer arm of Madoff Investment Securities LLC,” Mr. Markopolos wrote to the SEC in November 2005.

Finally, a hero on Wall Street.

But don’t blame only the SEC. Wall Streeters and the pols in their pockets have for years tried to de-fang the SEC by reducing its funding and luring away top regulators with higher-paying jobs and having them lobby their old pals.

A steady drumbeat of “Deregulate, deregulate” was all you heard from Wall Street for decades. This is what happens when you don’t regulate.

While you figure out how protect your millions from scamsters like Madoff …

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Agence France Presse: ‘Alwaleed still leads Arab tycoons despite losses’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web’

Google has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content.

N.Y. Post: ‘MADOFF SCAM BECOMES ‘EARTH’ QUAKE: $50B DISASTER RIPPLES FROM TOKYO TO GENEVA’

Times (U.K.): ‘Bush says he saw “sole” of Iraqi shoe attacker’

Throwing shoes is particularly insulting in the Middle East — a crowd of Iraqis used their shoes to whack a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein after the 2003 invasion — and [Muntazer] al-Zaidi was today hailed as a hero across the region while colleagues called for his release. …

His television station, Al-Baghdadia, repeatedly aired pleas for his release today while showing footage of explosions and playing background music that denounced the US presence in Iraq. …

Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the influential London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote on the newspaper’s website that the incident was “a proper goodbye for a war criminal”.

Abdel-Sattar Qassem, a political science professor at An Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus, added: “This great Arab shoe sums up the history of the criminal Bush, who is responsible for the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of Islamic sons and who remained arrogant, spiteful and mean-spirited until the last moment of his term.”

Guardian (U.K.): ‘George Bush: US will not walk away from Afghanistan’

Agence France Presse: ‘Lebanese send more money home in 2008, but crisis may slow remittances’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Emanuel, Blagojevich Aides Discussed Senate Seat: After Election, Obama Team Relayed List of Acceptable Candidates; No Evidence There Was Any Illegal Quid Pro Quo’

N.Y. Post: ‘PATERSON IN A BLIND RAGE OVER SNL SKIT’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Losses in Madoff Case Spread’

… In the wealthy Florida enclave of Palm Beach, four multimillion-dollar condos at Two Breakers Row, a peach-colored complex just north of the landmark Breakers hotel, on Friday and Saturday were put up for sale by owners who had invested with Mr. Madoff, said Nadine House, a prominent local real-estate agent.

Agence France Presse: ‘Journalist hurls shoes at ‘dog’ Bush during surprise Iraq visit’

Washington Post: ‘Bush Defends Iraq War During a Farewell Visit: Iraqi Journalist Hurls Two Shoes at Bush During Press Conference With Al-Maliki’

Wall Street Journal: ‘SEC Had Chances for Years to Expose Madoff’s Alleged Ponzi Scheme’

Economist (U.K.): ‘Ponzi squared: Just when Wall Street needs it least, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme takes financial fraud to new lows’

Followers of the past year and a half’s financial misadventures have become inured to bucketfuls of red ink. Even so, the potential losses from the scam perpetrated by Bernie Madoff, a Wall Street veteran, are jaw-dropping.

The $17 billion of investors’ funds that his firm supposedly held earlier this year have all but evaporated and the hole could be as big as $50 billion. That would make it the biggest financial fraud in history.

Scotsman (U.K.): ‘Banks braced for Madoff impact’ (Martin Flanagan)

Great Dr Strangelove-type name for an alleged corporate fraudster of the highest echelon, isn’t it? “Madoff.” …

It will certainly vindicate those who believed the next big domino waiting to fall in the banking game after sub-prime would be banks playing footsie, even indirectly, with hedge funds.

 

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Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush

A go-away present during president’s surprise visit to Baghdad.

An Iraqi journalist threw shoes at George W. Bush during a press conference Sunday in Baghdad.

Loafers for the loafer.

See the video yourself. AP reported:

“This is a farewell kiss, you dog!” shouted the protester in Arabic, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.

Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him.

“It was a size 10,” Bush joked later.

The journalist had apparently just come to the realization that the emperor’s new clothes were an illusion and decided to present some footwear to him on behalf of the Iraq people.

With tens of thousands of Iraqis already dead since the U.S. invasion in March 2003, there’s no shortage of previously owned footwear in Baghdad to donate to Americans.

Al-Zeidi is believed to have hurt his chances of landing a network job in the U.S.

I can’t think of any more smart-ass lines right now.

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Henry Paulson ends bailouts, saying, ‘Mission accomplished!’

… while Rahm Emanuel reads Wall Street CEOs the riot act

Across the nation, Americans are celebrating the end of the Wall Street War. The big bankers are saved!

No more bailouts, says Henry Paulson.

In “Has the worst of financial crisis passed? Paulson says yes,” McClatchy’s Kevin G. Hall writes this morning:

Taking care not to declare victory, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the treasury told Congress on Tuesday that the unprecedented rescue efforts over the past eight weeks appear to have prevented the collapse of financial markets and returned them to a semblance of normalcy.

Yes, if by “normalcy” you mean astounding numbers of foreclosures, massive budget cuts in every state from South Dakota to South Carolina, layoffs of hundreds of thousands of people, outrageously high mortgage payments still due on houses that are suddenly worth nothing.

In essence, Paulson really did declare victory. Now, who exactly is going to make Wall Street safe for democracy?

Listening to Paulson announce the end of the Great Bailout of ’08 is like listening to George W. Bush on May 1, 2003, when he declared, “Mission accomplished!”

One difference: Bush was in his cute little military playsuit, and Paulson was wearing his normal coat and tie.

One similarity: More Americans have suffered in Iraq since Bush declared victory, and more Americans will be suffering here in the States since Paulson’s hailing of a return to normalcy.

One big difference: In Iraq, the government at least tried to stop suicide bombers or hunted down their colleagues afterwards.

Over here, it was the investment bankers who blew up Wall Street, and the federal government stepped in to hand over billions of dollars to help those suicide bombers who survived.

Paulson patched the potholes on Wall Street — mission accomplished. What about the collateral damage? Helpless civilians in Iraq, helpless civilians here in the States.

Not only are Americans losing their homes at record rates, but the collateral damage from Wall Street’s suicidal behavior is immense. States and cities have drastically slashed budgets, which means that vital public services like education, health, and mass transit are of course the first to go. Who’s fraggin’ whom?

Contrary to what Paulson says, the war is not over, despite the fact that Wall Street is pulling out jobs from under us.

One sign that the conflict isn’t over is that for the first time in decades, an emissary of a U.S. president came to Wall Street and read CEOs the riot act. Straight up, Rahm Emanuel called on them to support — gasp! — universal health care.

What is he, some sort of Commie?

In “Emanuel Sets a Challenge,” the Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Weisman writes:

Since the president-elect named Mr. Emanuel his chief of staff, the famously voluble Chicago congressman has limited his public appearances and strained to stay out of the news. But on Tuesday night, he was combative with a business audience.

He was asked his views on the push by labor unions to allow workplaces to be organized with the signing of cards attesting to union support rather than a secret ballot. Mr. Emanuel declined to say whether the White House would support the legislation, but he said the unions are addressing the concerns of a middle class that has seen U.S. median income slide over the past eight years, while health care, energy and education costs have soared.

He said business leaders should help find solutions to the middle-class squeeze or face a revolt. “We need a strategy as a country to make sure they have an opportunity to move up that ladder,” he said. . . .

He stressed that the new administration would “throw long and deep,” taking advantage of the economic crisis to push wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. “The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington,” Mr. Emanuel said.

True, Emanuel also left the big cigars with a we’re-all-in-this-together message:

“I want you to know, I’ve got your back,” he told them. “I’ll feel better knowing that you’ve got my back.”

You can only hope that Emanuel, said to be a ruthless operative, was simply channeling the similarly ruthless Michael Corleone‘s words to Frankie Five Angels, “Keep your friends close — and your enemies closer.”

If Emanuel’s true to his words of praise for unions looking out for the middle class while businessmen aren’t, then these CEOs had better watch their own backs.

If there’s no CEO currently within your reach, take a stab at these stories . . .

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Times: ‘For More of Mexico’s Wealthy, Cost of Living Includes Guards’

Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Yid Vid: Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones Address the Economic Crisis’

A Glimpse of the World (Howard W. French): ‘Obama and Africa: The Change We Have Been Waiting For?’

[A] new war looms in the Congo, a place where unbeknown to most Americans the United States has played a critical and mostly disastrous role since independence from Belgium in 1960. According to respectable international estimates some four million people have died in the Congo as a result of wars there since 1996, the greatest toll anywhere since World War II.

There is a powerful argument to be made that this disaster, along with the Rwandan genocide that preceded it, is Bill Clinton’s most important foreign policy legacy, and an Obama policy toward Africa run by many of the same people and carrying forward Clinton era thinking would be a sign of disdain for the continent and its problems.

McClatchy: ‘Why not let Detroit’s Big Three go bankrupt?’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘MTA’s in fast lane for big hike’

Express bus riders are looking at $7.50 per trip, up from $5, under the plan being released by the MTA tomorrow, according to sources.

“What, are they insane?” Liz Salsbury said as she boarded an express bus to Queens in midtown Tuesday.

McClatchy: ‘America could get its first black attorney general’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Emanuel Sets a Challenge’

President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff challenged chief executives and other business leaders Tuesday night to join the new administration in a push for universal health care, saying incremental increases in coverage won’t be acceptable.

McClatchy: ‘Taxpayers will pay for Gonzales’ private attorney’

McClatchy: ‘Under Iraq troop pact, U.S. can’t leave any forces behind’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Court clerk indicted in mortgage scam’

McClatchy: ‘Has the worst of financial crisis passed? Paulson says yes.’

Washington Post: ‘Why Clinton Can’t Decide’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Ex-Clinton deputy Holder hailed as “smart” and “fair” guy’

N.Y. Times: ‘Holder Seen as Justice Choice as Obama Forms Team’

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Teachers rule again: School jobs steady as others decline’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Top Traders Still Expect the Cash: Wall Street CEOs Are Giving Up Pay, but Hotshots Are Another Story’

 

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L.A.: Hot and miserable; Barack Obama: Cool and refreshing

A grownup is moving into the White House.

A president who reads. A president who talks. Boy howdy, can Barack Obama talk. He sounds like a regular person — a highly educated person, yes, but most of all, a sober and square fellow.

Change? It’s automatic, at the very least in style. For proof, see Steve Kroft‘s interview of the Obamas on 60 Minutes.

Good thing that Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has other journalistic skills. For the past eight years, Weisberg has feasted on the malappropriate George W. Bush — see The Complete Bushisms.

You won’t see similar compilations of “Obamaisms.” Even the most reactionary Americans will have to agree on that.

On the other hand, Bush did set a high standard for his successor on September 19, when he stood before reporters in the Rose Garden to talk about Wall Street’s greed-driven, self-inflicted meltdown and vowed:

“Anyone engaging in illegal financial transactions will be caught and persecuted.”

Do it, Obama. Follow through on Bush’s promise to the nation.

Oh, and try to stamp out some of Bush’s other fires — the one he neglected in Afghanistan, the one he started in Iraq.

Hope you have more success than the firefighters in L.A.’s suburban mountains.

While the harsh, hot Santa Ana winds fan flames on the West Coast, a cool, fresh breeze from Chicago is refreshing the East Coast.

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

Agence France Presse: ‘US media ramps up to cover new White House’

Chicago Tribune: ‘Barack Obama interview a big ‘get’ for Steve Kroft and CBS’ 60 Minutes

McClatchy: ‘Why hasn’t the U.S. gone after Mullah Omar in Pakistan?’

N.Y. Times: ‘Congress Meets for One Last Fight and to Look Ahead’

Boston Globe: ‘The people’s republic of sport: Why Karl Marx would love America’s sports — and hate Europe’s’

Chicago Tribune: ‘Obama’s Chicago’ (Interactive map)

Chicago Tribune: ‘Obama’s Sam Cooke connection’

UPI: ‘Obama seeks to boost confidence at Justice’

Washington Post: ‘Obama adds staff to growing White House team’

McClatchy: ‘Scene of the crimes’

I called a Somali source to meet today [November 13] at the Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi, which to me felt a little like meeting an Eliot Spitzer aide at the Mayflower.

The Regency has become one of the most notorious addresses in Nairobi, the center of a very shady deal by the Finance Minister to sell the property to Libyan investors and, more recently, the place where conservative author Jerome Corsi was detained for promoting his book slamming then-candidate Obama.

McClatchy: ‘A new Taliban has re-emerged in Afghanistan’

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Iranian VP in hot water again over girls dancing with Koran’

McClatchy: ‘China’s coal fires belch fumes, worsening global warming’

N.Y. Times: ‘Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage’

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Suicide blast kills 15 as Iraqi Cabinet approves security pact’

Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Pakistan suspends supply convoys for foreign forces in Afghanistan’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Goldman Chiefs Give Up Bonuses: Seven Top Executives to Forgo Millions in 2008; Move Could Pressure Other Firms’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Top Republicans Oppose Auto Industry Bailout’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Measures to Boost Bank Lending Could Be Dangerous: Banks are being forced to act as backstops to a larger problem — the breakdown of securities markets’